You remember when the first President Bush seemed flummoxed by the scanner at the grocery-storeÂ checkout? You can Google â€œBush scannerâ€ and read all about it. (Turns out itâ€™s an urban legend, but it made a good story at the time.) Shopping with my husband reminds me of this purported incident. He is stuck, shopping-wise, in about 1962, when his mother used to take himÂ to the 30th Street Plaza in Canton, Ohio. Add his anachronistic attitudes to his personality quirks, especially a terminal indecisiveness, and you have yourself an interesting shopping trip.
John spends about 97% of his waking life in movie theaters. This leaves little time for shopping. Hence, he is always amazed by the bounty. In the grocery store, he says, â€œLook at all the olives! Why donâ€™t you ever buy olives?â€™ Then we walk down another aisle. â€œLook! They have Oreos with pink stuffing! Why donâ€™t you ever buy those?â€ In every aisle, John will find A.Â something to marvel at, and, B. something to reproach me for.
His childlike wonder would be endearing, except that heâ€™s in his seventh decade of life.
Same thing at the mall. In the department store, he says, â€œSo many clothes. Look at how many clothes they have.â€ ThisÂ remark has infinite permutations. â€œSo many nice shirts. I like these shirts.â€ Then heâ€™ll finger a white shirt with dark stripes and tell me how much he likes it. I believe that he likes this particular shirt, because he owns about ten white shirts with dark stripes. If I point this out, heâ€™ll say, yes, but the stripes arenâ€™t this shade. Heâ€™s distinguishing, for example, these pewter gray stripes from those gun-metal gray stripes at home.
John owns over sixty shirts. I just counted them. Today at Richmond Mall he bought three more. How many shirts do other men have? I donâ€™t know. Iâ€™ve never been married before. My dad had hardly any shirts, and I had no brothers. Johnâ€™s supply seems excessive.
SameÂ with sweaters. At Macy’s he’ll say, â€œThatâ€™s a pretty sweater.” I donâ€™t buy him sweaters any more because he has nearly as many sweaters as shirts. He has to get rid of some before I will buy him any more. When I tell him this, he always says, â€œI could get rid of some sweaters.â€ He says this to torment me.
So, today he spent hours at the mall picking out a couple of shirts and sweaters. Theyâ€™re on sale, of course, in January. â€œEverythingâ€™s so cheap!â€ he exclaims. â€œThey should delay Christmas for about a month to take advantage of these sales!â€
Once we have made a purchase, John worries about walking into another store carrying his bag. What will the Macyâ€™s people say about his bringing a Penneyâ€™s bag into the store? I try for the umpteenth time to explain the meaning of â€œmallâ€ to him. Does he imagine that the merchants expect him to trek to his car every time he buys something, a la the 30th Street Plaza, 1962? What would be the point of all these stores gathered under one roof, I ask, if you have to leave to stow your packages all the time?
He seems not to be listening, and on our next visit, about twelve months hence, heâ€™llÂ exhibit the same awe, admiration, and questions. Are other men like this? I really want to know.